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Wig & Pen to move to ANU's Llewellyn Hall

Date

Henry Belot

Wig and Pen duty-manager, Finn McGrath in the brew-pub's barrell-aging room, in the basement of Canberra House. The brewery plans to move to Llewellyn Hall.

Wig and Pen duty-manager, Finn McGrath in the brew-pub's barrell-aging room, in the basement of Canberra House. The brewery plans to move to Llewellyn Hall. Photo: Rohan Thomson

One of Canberra’s most famous and acclaimed breweries, the Wig & Pen, is to move to the foyer of Llewellyn Hall as the ANU’s school of music plans to reinvent the precinct as a cultural hub.

The Wig & Pen faced the prospect of calling last drinks last year amid plans to redevelop Canberra House as a residential and retail hub.

But an agreement struck with the head of the music school has given the much-loved pub a lifeline, provided, of course, the government agreed to fast-track the development applications.

Andrew  Deakins and Anna Trundle from Turner enjoy a Stout at the Wig and Pen on Sunday.

Andrew Deakins and Anna Trundle from Turner enjoy a Stout at the Wig and Pen on Sunday. Photo: Rohan Thomson

ANU school of music director Peter Tregear said his school had a long-standing relationship with the Wig & Pen, which had assisted fund-raising events for student trips and performances for many years.

“When we heard the pub was having to move due to the demolition of their building, we thought it would be worth a pitch to see whether they’d consider moving in on the ground floor of Llewellyn Hall,” he said.

“We had a discussion over a beer at the pub,” he said. “They were worried about what their future was and responded instantly and enthusiastically.”

Wig and Pen duty-manager, Finn McGrath in the Wig and Pen's grain store, in the basement at Canberra House. The building will be redeveloped later this year.

Wig and Pen duty-manager, Finn McGrath in the Wig and Pen's grain store, in the basement at Canberra House. The building will be redeveloped later this year. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Wig & Pen owner Lachlan McOmish said it would be a great privilege to relocate to Llewellyn Hall, given the pub’s association with Canberra’s arts scene and the school of music in particular.

“This would see the Wig & Pen set up right in the middle of our client base,” he said.

Mr Tregear said the idea was raised by student Callum Builder, who campaigned for a jazz pop-up club on the ground floor.

“Some people might develop a wry smile when they think I could just walk down from my office and grab a beer in the afternoon and, of course, that’s terrific, but this move will really cement the hall as a true arts hub of Canberra where people can meet and congregate,” he said.

Mr McOmish said the pub would make every effort to retain the charm that had brought it international acclaim, although the menu would be revised to offer more affordable fare for students and staff.

“We’ll be keeping as much of the existing fittings as possible and all the brewing equipment will be transferred across as is,” he said. “We’ll also be taking over the bar and the existing ceiling at the centre should lend itself nicely.”

Mr McOmish was confident the Wig & Pen would not disrupt orchestra performances at the hall and would provide an ideal destination after concerts.

“We’ll have to work hard to find ways to keep the noise down during orchestra events but we’re confident we’ll be able to do so," he said. "I would never have agreed to move to the hall otherwise.

“We don’t do rock bands or anything like that at the Wig & Pen.”

Mr Tregear said anyone who had been a regular at Llewellyn Hall knew how difficult it could be to grab a drink after a concert and the Wig & Pen would fill the gap perfectly. 

The pub, which would open in September, planned to be based in the hall’s green room where the signature wall stands. That would be protected and become a feature of the pub itself.

The wall carried the signatures of Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, words from the Dalai Lama, the inscriptions of Gough Whitlam and Paul Kelly and a Michael Leunig cartoon angel.

Mr Tregear said the relocation of the pub would encourage many people who would never normally visit a concert hall to give it a try and open the school up to the public.

“The pub would also provide opportunities for students to perform inside the venue when appropriate, a prospect both Lachlan and I are both keen on developing.”

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